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Two of the fundamental parameters that describe a sound wave in numbers are pitch and amplitude. To get an idea of the decibel scale: 10 dB is 10 times more powerful than 0 dB, not 10 points greater. 0 dB is the loudness of near silence (a mosquito 10 feet away), while 120 dB is the loudness of a loud car horn heard from 1 meter away. 90 Decibels or a sound as loud as only a raised voice can cause gradual hearing loss (Refer to the hearing safety chart here).
Since the loudness depends on the medium, the maximum loudness a medium can propagate is dependent on its density.
For events like the Saturn V launch, volcanic explosion, nuclear bomb explosion, earthquakes, star-quakes the concept of sound doesn’t really apply anymore. However, in the universe beyond earth, the starquake on the magnetar SGR 1806-20 registered 22.8 to 32 on the Richter scale.


That means, it is just a series of pressure changes [compressions and rarefactions] in a particular medium.
Like I said before, the perceived loudness depends on your ear’s distance from the source, so the loudness of a lawnmower can range anything from 90 dB to as much as 110 dB if you stand 3 feet away from it. Our atmosphere can do nothing more than 190 dB, that, by the way, is enough to make you deaf or cause death. The magnetar released more energy in one-tenth of a second than our sun has released in 100,000 years. An event which thankfully took place 50,000 light-years away from earth. But, the amplitude of a sound wave determines how powerful it is; greater the amplitude, louder the sound. On this scale, 9 means total destruction (8.2 was measured during the explosion of the largest bomb ever, Tsar Bomba). Had it been even 10 light-years away, the energy released would have wiped off life on earth.


For instance, sound cannot travel in a vacuum due to the absence of any medium, but it can travel much faster in solids than in air. That is the reason you can’t hear someone talking in space (yes, movies that show loud explosions in space, lie). Normally, a decibel scale ranging from 0 dB to 130 dB is enough for measuring the loudness of most things. This is a very short lived pulse which doesn’t carry enough energy to do us any harm. Also, the faster speed of sound in steel rails is exactly the reason why, you can tell a train is approaching, if you stick your ears to the rails (do not try this on electric rails).



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